This day made lugging the unicycle along worthwhile. Kilometer after kilometer of flat, slightly sandy trail greeted me after I left the previous night’s campsite at Hvanngil. Hiking it all would have been mind-numbingly boring, so it was with considerable glee that I was able to cover some of the distance on wheel. Even so, the physical strain of the last few days caught up with me, and by the end of the day I was limping up the final hill from my too-small boots while I eagerly counted down the last few meters to my evening’s campsite at the Langidalur hut in the Þórsmörk valley.
Author’s note: this is post is included in a series of articles I have written about this trip. To read more, check out the links below or use the “Iceland 2017” category on the sidebar to filter posts:
This is another day better told by pictures than words, so I’ve left it to the videos, images, and captions below to tell the story of my second-to-last day on the trails in Iceland.
I had a slow start to the morning – my tired body and the very crappy weather combined powers to make leaving my sleeping bag quite the challenge. But I finally got packed up and hit the trail at 6:41 am, taking a quick pause to snap a look back at the other tents still nestled peacefully at Hvanngil.
The first dozen kilometers after Hvanngil were through a flat volcanic terrain. Jeep roads ran parallel to the trail, so I decided to ride on them to make my life a little bit easier. What can I say, I was pretty tired on my fifth day on the trail.
As the kilometers rolled past, the clouds began to lighten up and spots of blue sky could be glimpsed through the cloud cover. I was pretty excited to see the sun after the stormy weather.
I arrived at the Emstrur/Botnar hut at about 9:30 am, just as a few tour groups were finishing their breakfast and packing their stuff for their day’s hike to Þórsmörk. I took a break there, sitting down to snarf some crackers and wring out my socks and then was back on the trail before 10:00 am.
Not long after Emstrur/Botnar, the trail descended loosely and rockily to a bridge over the Syðri-Emstruá river. In the distance, a finger of the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier could be seen.
The last drop before the bridge was steep enough to require chains. Luckily unicycles aren’t too heavy, so the downclimb wasn’t so bad with my muni (mountain unicycle) on my shoulder.
It was about this time that I started to get tired. Really tired. It felt like I was low on sugar, but I’d been snacking all day. Hills became a challenge, so my stride shortened to make it easier on my quads. I could only ride short portions at a time, and anything too technical left me dismounted and walking. There were still some portions that I could ride, though.
The kilometers slowly, slowly, crept past me until finally I found myself at the bank of the Þröngá, about 4 km from the Þórsmörk/Langidalur hut. This river was by far the most challenging, and it took considerable walking up and down the bank before I found a point where the swift, deep water seemed shallow enough to cross. In the end, the spot I picked left my knees and a good portion of my thighs wet, but I didn’t fall in or lose anything, so I was happy.
These trail markers counted down the meters to the Þórsmörk/Langidalur hut. They were pretty much the only thing keeping me going at this point.
The last few kilometers from the Þröngá to the hut were through sun-sheltered foliage with colorful wildflowers and accompanied by birdsong. Naturally, I didn’t notice it at the time because I was too tired and in pain to do anything besides keep going forward.
The trail to the Þórsmörk/Langidalur hut goes up over a steep ridge before dropping back down to river level. I had realized by this point that my boots were too small, but there was nothing else to do besides struggle up slowly and grit my teeth tightly on the way down. I found that curling my toes helped a little on the downhill, so I clenched my soles so tightly I’m surprised I didn’t get cramps. But in the end, I made it.
The wonderful view when arriving at the Langidalur hut.
After ditching my boots and resting a bit (I was offered food by some wonderful guys who were breaking at the Langidalur hut before continuing to the Basar hut), I paid for my tent place and wandered about until I found this spot. Extremely protected, relatively private, and complete with a front-terrace tree for hanging up and airing out clothing. PERFECT.
Snapped a photo of myself in the bathrooms for the record books. Tiredness made me disinclined to smile – I told myself it was so I would show the face scab in the clearest light. Not sure that was true, but it left me with an amusing selfie, nonetheless.
The Langidalur hut in the Þórsmörk valley was absolutely my favorite hut of the whole trail. Unlike all the other huts, the common room was open to everyone, not just people who paid to stay in the hut. It was wonderful to be able to cook inside where it was warm, and soon I was introduced to the several tour groups who were spending their last night there before bussing out the next day. Most people remembered seeing me on the trail, so it was cool to exchange stories and hear their thoughts on taking a unicycle on the trail. (Of course they thought it was crazy. But that’s why we do these things, eh?)
Bonus of doing the Laugavegur on a unicycle: you get major brownie points from the tour groups. I was extremely lucky and was gifted a free beer, free salad, and a bit of roast lamb from people in the tour groups as they had their last-night feast. I was even offered a bit of grilled salmon, but I had to decline because I was so full of delicious food. All in all, it was a wonderful way to end the day, and when at last I curled up in my sleeping bag, I was belly-full, warm, and happy.